Kisoro District is tucked away in the southwestern corner of Uganda, where it borders Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Like most other Ugandan districts, it is named after its ‘chief town’, Kisoro, where the district headquarters are located. Water School has been active in this region since 2007.
The local Water School team had set up a series of appointments with local government officials, and it was a testament to their standing in the community that every one of these people made time for us, even though it was clear they were swamped with work and people waiting to see them.
One of the highlights was speaking with the District Health Inspector; he organizes the volunteer Village Health Teams (VHTs), which we work with closely, as part of the Water School implementation team. VHTs are volunteers who feel strongly about our program and go into their communities to train others. This is in addition to teaching children in schools and has proven effective for reaching adults. I was able to observe a VHT training of local farmers. About 30 people gradually drifted into the meeting. Some had walked up to 15 kms to get there – even while carrying babies!
The training was in the local language, Lufumbira, and although it started out pretty quietly, after a few minutes they were really able to get these subsistence farmers engaged and the questions started coming and also a few ideas for improving the program.
The group emphasized that they needed a solution that was more than purifying water to help ward off waterborne diseases. The local Water School staff explained that the WASH program focuses on SODIS as well as basic hygiene and sanitation education.
To reinforce the point, the group walked about 1km to a nearby farmer’s home, to put the program into use and transform their compound. Using a few small trees other local materials such as plastic jerry cans, stones and plastic water bottles, in a couple of hours the farmers, with the guidance of the Water school team, had: built a working tippy tap, improved a private bath house, dug a garbage pit, built a drying rack for dishes and household utensils and swept the compound clean.
Keeping the homes clean, washing hands and having proper latrines and bath houses are just as important as having clean water to drink and it was exciting to the group as well as to me to see the transformation and the light go on!
So far, we have 126 trained VHTs in Kisoro and each is responsible for training and monitoring about 25 families making our reach through this method about 20,000 people! – Tony Woodruff, African Program Director